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Robert Putnam on Social Capital - Dictionary of Arguments

Gaus I 59
Social trust/social capital/Robert Putnam/Forbes: [Robert] Putnam maintains that ‘social trust’ (which he also calls social capital) is the variable connecting associational density to democratic performance. Trust is vitally important for a society, he says, because it helps to overcome ‘dilemmas of collective action’ and thus ‘to solve the fundamental Hobbesian dilemma of public order’ (1993)(1). Trusting and trustworthy citizens are more able to...
Gaus I 60
...co-operate with each other, on the basis of voluntary agreements, than are those who lack trust in each other and cannot make credible commitments. A dense (and closed) network of civic engagements sustains generalized trust because it threatens naturally self-interested individuals with realistic punishments for defecting from their commitments (Coleman, 1988(2); 1990(3)). In looser, more open social networks, individualism or narrow self-interest (opportunism, free riding, etc.) is more likely to flourish, so that all must forgo many opportunities for mutual gain. Trust, and the norm of reciprocity associated with it, serve to reconcile self-interest and solidarity. They ‘lubricate’ co-operation, not just in politics, but also in economics. In short, ‘good government in Italy is a by-product of singing groups and soccer clubs’ (Putnam, 1993(4).
VsPutnam, Robert: since its publication, Putnam’s remarkably suggestive analysis has been exposed to a great deal of critical scrutiny. Some have objected to his depiction of Italian society and politics; others have challenged the application of his theory to other countries, particularly the United States. Putnam, for example, may not have paid sufficient attention to the role that the Communist Party of Italy played in creating good government (operationalized as pollution controls, daycare centres, responsive bureaucrats, etc.) in those regions where it was strong (Tarrow, 1996)(5). Could the crucial independent variable have been, not singing groups and soccer clubs, but communist cells? And how many regions are there really, from a statistician’s standpoint, in Italy? Are there 20 that are distinguished in law and that are the basis for Putnam’s statistics, or are there really just two distinct regions, North and South? The weight of the statistical evidence must evidently depend on the answer to this question.
Similar problems appear when the theory is applied to other countries.
Pro Putnam, Robert: Some support for its general applicability has been found in studies of the American states, even though the relevant correlations are distinctly weaker (Putnam, 2000(6); Rice and Sumberg, 1997(7); Rice and Arnett, 2001(8)). Cf. >Positive Political Theory/Forbes, >Good government/Putnam.


1. Putnam, Robert D. (1993) Making Democracy Work: Civic Traditions in Modern Italy. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press. p. 112.
2. Coleman, James S. (1988) ‘Social capital in the creation of human capital’. American Journal of Sociology, 94: S 95–120.
3. Coleman, James S. (1990) Foundations of Social Theory. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.
4. Putnam ibid. p.176.
5. Tarrow, Sidney (1996) ‘Making social science work across space and time: a critical reflection on Robert Putnam’s Making Democracy Work’. American Political Science Review, 90: 389–97.
6. Putnam, Robert D. (2000) Bowling Alone: The Collapse and Revival of American Community. New York: Simon and Schuster.
7. Rice, Tom W. and Alexander F. Sumberg (1997) ‘Civic culture and government performance in the American states’. Publius, 27: 99–114.
8. Rice, Tom W. and Marshall Arnett (2001) ‘Civic culture and socioeconomic development in the United States: a view from the states, 1880s–1990s’. Social Science Journal, 38: 39–51.


Forbes, H. Donald 2004. „Positive Political Theory“. In: Gaus, Gerald F. & Kukathas, Chandran 2004. Handbook of Political Theory. SAGE Publications.


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Explanation of symbols: Roman numerals indicate the source, arabic numerals indicate the page number. The corresponding books are indicated on the right hand side. ((s)…): Comment by the sender of the contribution. Translations: Dictionary of Arguments
The note [Author1]Vs[Author2] or [Author]Vs[term] is an addition from the Dictionary of Arguments. If a German edition is specified, the page numbers refer to this edition.

Putnam I
Hilary Putnam
Von einem Realistischen Standpunkt
In
Von einem realistischen Standpunkt, Vincent C. Müller, Frankfurt 1993

Putnam I (a)
Hilary Putnam
Explanation and Reference, In: Glenn Pearce & Patrick Maynard (eds.), Conceptual Change. D. Reidel. pp. 196--214 (1973)
In
Von einem realistischen Standpunkt, Vincent C. Müller, Reinbek 1993

Putnam I (b)
Hilary Putnam
Language and Reality, in: Mind, Language and Reality: Philosophical Papers, Volume 2. Cambridge University Press. pp. 272-90 (1995
In
Von einem realistischen Standpunkt, Vincent C. Müller, Reinbek 1993

Putnam I (c)
Hilary Putnam
What is Realism? in: Proceedings of the Aristotelian Society 76 (1975):pp. 177 - 194.
In
Von einem realistischen Standpunkt, Vincent C. Müller, Reinbek 1993

Putnam I (d)
Hilary Putnam
Models and Reality, Journal of Symbolic Logic 45 (3), 1980:pp. 464-482.
In
Von einem realistischen Standpunkt, Vincent C. Müller, Reinbek 1993

Putnam I (e)
Hilary Putnam
Reference and Truth
In
Von einem realistischen Standpunkt, Vincent C. Müller, Reinbek 1993

Putnam I (f)
Hilary Putnam
How to Be an Internal Realist and a Transcendental Idealist (at the Same Time) in: R. Haller/W. Grassl (eds): Sprache, Logik und Philosophie, Akten des 4. Internationalen Wittgenstein-Symposiums, 1979
In
Von einem realistischen Standpunkt, Vincent C. Müller, Reinbek 1993

Putnam I (g)
Hilary Putnam
Why there isn’t a ready-made world, Synthese 51 (2):205--228 (1982)
In
Von einem realistischen Standpunkt, Vincent C. Müller, Reinbek 1993

Putnam I (h)
Hilary Putnam
Pourqui les Philosophes? in: A: Jacob (ed.) L’Encyclopédie PHilosophieque Universelle, Paris 1986
In
Von einem realistischen Standpunkt, Vincent C. Müller, Reinbek 1993

Putnam I (i)
Hilary Putnam
Realism with a Human Face, Cambridge/MA 1990
In
Von einem realistischen Standpunkt, Vincent C. Müller, Reinbek 1993

Putnam I (k)
Hilary Putnam
"Irrealism and Deconstruction", 6. Giford Lecture, St. Andrews 1990, in: H. Putnam, Renewing Philosophy (The Gifford Lectures), Cambridge/MA 1992, pp. 108-133
In
Von einem realistischen Standpunkt, Vincent C. Müller, Reinbek 1993

Putnam II
Hilary Putnam
Representation and Reality, Cambridge/MA 1988
German Edition:
Repräsentation und Realität Frankfurt 1999

Putnam III
Hilary Putnam
Renewing Philosophy (The Gifford Lectures), Cambridge/MA 1992
German Edition:
Für eine Erneuerung der Philosophie Stuttgart 1997

Putnam IV
Hilary Putnam
"Minds and Machines", in: Sidney Hook (ed.) Dimensions of Mind, New York 1960, pp. 138-164
In
Künstliche Intelligenz, Walther Ch. Zimmerli/Stefan Wolf, Stuttgart 1994

Putnam V
Hilary Putnam
Reason, Truth and History, Cambridge/MA 1981
German Edition:
Vernunft, Wahrheit und Geschichte Frankfurt 1990

Putnam VI
Hilary Putnam
"Realism and Reason", Proceedings of the American Philosophical Association (1976) pp. 483-98
In
Truth and Meaning, Paul Horwich, Aldershot 1994

Putnam VII
Hilary Putnam
"A Defense of Internal Realism" in: James Conant (ed.)Realism with a Human Face, Cambridge/MA 1990 pp. 30-43
In
Theories of Truth, Paul Horwich, Aldershot 1994

SocPut I
Robert D. Putnam
Bowling Alone: The Collapse and Revival of American Community New York 2000

Gaus I
Gerald F. Gaus
Chandran Kukathas
Handbook of Political Theory London 2004


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